Before I share some of the best of the web from
the past week whenever I did this last, I want to take a minute to wish Suebob a happy 50th birthday! I got the chance to meet Suebob at a retreat last year, and she is QUALITY PEOPLE. Probably one of the most supportive and genuine people in the blogosphere. She spent the last 50 days leading up to her big day blogging about a different charity each day. (See above about QUALITY PEOPLE). You can check out her entries at her blog Red Stapler.
The blog world was all a-buzz about poverty and missions and helping others this week. I found the whole discussion fascinating and encouraging. I think it’s good that people are looking at these issues, especially stemming from what seems to be a growing global consciousness . It raises some tough questions but I think it is necessary. Here are some interesting reads on helping, both locally and globally. Click on the title to read the whole post.
For me, this is personal, and let me explain why. I grew up with people like that – the “Why bother?” people, the nothing-is-good-enough-to-do-because-it-will-just-lead-to-more-trouble people, the doubters and the deniers and the skeptical.
I have spent years answering their questions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and trying to justify why it is worth doing and seeing their sneers and enduring their put-downs. And while I’m doing my little bit, they’re sitting on the couch and eating Doritos and rolling their eyes at me.
You know what I really want to do?
I want to fill a rental van marked “Tourist” with unbelievably rich people and then I want to bring them to your middle-class neighborhood to take pictures of you and your kids and your house and your cars.
I’ll act as the unofficial tour guide to their trip
, walking them slowly down the street, pointing out the shocking differences between their lifestyle and yours. “This man,” I will say with a gesture of my upturned palm, “cuts his own lawn.”
“These kids share a bedroom.”
“Many of these families require two incomes… just to survive.”
Our lives, our stories are what connect our hearts to each other. Robert McKee said that stories are the currency of human contact. They are the most powerful tool that we have to tap into emotion, instigate discomfort and therefore, promote change and transformation. To render one’s life to another, helping us understand that we all share common goals and values, is impossible without that basic human connection.
So here’s to all of us stepping into the grace to step out of our own vomit. The single mom with the dirty tent. The abused girl with battered wife syndrome. Me and my stupid obsession with food issues. You and your issues with ___________.
It is ONLY through grace that we can step out of our folly.
My son was born at 24 weeks weighing one pound, four ounces. He was born addicted to crack. He survived.
My son was shaken to the point of death when he was six months old. He survived.
My son was smothered with bleach, assaulted, shaken again and left for dead before he turned two. He survived.
The people who were to love and protect him robbed him of any chance of normalcy. Unlike his brother Shale, Jumby wasn’t born disabled. He survived; his disabilities are his scars to bear forever.
So when people chose not to see my son, or to limit him, I am infuriated. I want to rage beyond reason, and scream into the wind with the unfairness of it all.
The truth of the matter is, many long-term missionaries, aid workers, and world-changers were inspired by short trips that changed their perspective forever. The right response to poverty tourism is to educate and reform, not to discourage people from experiencing poverty and reporting on what they learn.
There is a reason why you will never be able to convince the people you know who have lived in a third world country that there is just as much need in the United States as there is everywhere else. That reason is this: to say something like that sounds ridiculous. A lot of America’s poor would be considered well off by the poor living in developing countries. The conclusion we came to as a couple after reading reports and educating ourselves is that compared to the rest of the world, most Americans are loaded when we consider their access to the gospel. They are rich in resources, and rolling in the dough when it comes to their human rights. I’m not trying to discount anyone’s suffering in the United States. There is so much suffering here. I didn’t say no one suffers in America. This world is broken and is groaning…all creation is groaning, crying out for redemption. There is pain in America. The destitute are among us. There are people who are in bad shape, in terrible places, and are yearning for friendship, love, and connection. There are even people who are hungry and sick. But when it comes to the idea of poverty we think Jesus was referring to in the Bible…the leper…the lame…the sick…the hungry…the orphan…the oppressed…for the most part, compared to other countries we are unquestionably fortunate in the United States.
Troy can spend entire day(s) with one timid and afraid 20 year old recently diagnosed and already ill with HIV helping to advocate for her medical care. He can be at ease as one day turns into three while waiting to get her the tests she needs and fighting a broken, inadequate, and unfair medical system – knowing that he is not expected to quantify the outcome of those hours …. time with one person isn’t usually looked at as success nor is it at all impressive when plotted on a spreadsheet – but it matters and it’s Kingdom work.